Sunday, November 30, 2008

Teach the Controversey

Must view an excellent essay over at Daylight Atheism about the IDiots' "Teach the Controversey" theme. I'm reposting it:

When two groups of experts disagree about a controversial subject that intersects the public school curriculum students should learn about both perspectives.
In such cases teachers should not teach as true only one competing view, just the Republican or Democratic view of the New Deal in a history class, for example. Instead, teachers should describe competing views to students and explain the arguments for and against these views as made by their chief proponents.

Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the "body of fact" that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy. Within the business we recognise that a controversy exists. However, with the general public the consensus is that cigarettes are in some way harmful to the health. If we are successful in establishing a controversy at the public level, then there is an opportunity to put across the real facts about smoking and health.
—Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 1969 (source)

"Teaching the controversy" has always been a rhetorical centerpiece of the intelligent-design movement, but it has become a more prominent part of their strategy in the wake of ID's 2005 court defeat in Dover, Pennsylvania. Seeking to avoid blame for the Dover verdict, creationist groups such as the Discovery Institute pleaded that they had never wanted to teach intelligent design per se, but only the "evidence for and against" evolution.

The most sinister part of this argument is its apparent fairness. Who could object to teaching students all sides in a dispute? Hardly anyone, of course, which is why ID advocates sometimes trumpet polls showing that large majorities say students should be taught the evidence for and against evolution. That shouldn't be a surprise: if there were legitimate evidence against evolution, even I would certainly want it to be taught, as I think most atheists would. But the problem is that these polls ask a loaded question by assuming that there is such evidence.
If there is a legitimate, scientific controversy over some issue, then by all means, teachers should present all sides in a fair and even-handed manner. However, this is not a description which applies to the teaching of evolution. Creationists and their intelligent-design comrades have steadfastly avoided making their case to the scientific community (where it meets with near-unanimous scorn). Instead, they're attempting to do an end-run around that scrutiny by forcing their beliefs into public schools before they have won the approval of practicing, qualified scientists in those fields. This is completely backwards from how these controversies are supposed to be resolved.

The problem with "teaching all sides" is that it can give fringe ideas a credibility they have not earned. Excessive concern for "balance" leads to presenting the speculations of cranks and crackpots as if they were on equal footing with the positions defended by vast majorities of qualified experts. (The media has a similar problem.) And this is very useful to advocates of pseudoscience, who often do not need to win the rhetorical battle outright; they can triumph merely by muddying the waters and preventing a consensus from forming around the truth.

This is the same strategy employed by tobacco companies, as we can see from the second excerpt above, as well as by oil companies seeking to forestall regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

But with all that said, the idea of teaching the controversy isn't an intrinsically bad one. There are plenty of subjects that have legitimate controversies where this commendable call for fairness could be better applied.

For example, how about sex ed? A great many religious conservatives - many of the same ones who call for teaching the controversy on evolution, I don't doubt - change their tune when it comes to public-school health classes, demanding that students be taught an "abstinence-only" program that omits contraception, or mentions it only to discuss its failure rates. How strange. Whatever happened to fairness? Whatever happened to learning about all sides? Why can students make up their own minds about evolution, but not about how to protect themselves from STDs?

Better yet, how about the public schools that teach about the Bible? (There are plenty that do, using curricula developed by third parties such as the Bible Literacy Project or the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.) Here, surely, is a topic that's ripe for teaching the controversy! Let's have students read selections from The God Delusion or Losing Faith in Faith. Let's have students hear criticisms of the Bible, like Richard Dawkins' famous statement that the god of the Old Testament is "arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction... a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully" - and then let's show them the verses that he uses to back up that criticism! To borrow some terminology from ID advocates, shouldn't the "strengths and weaknesses" of the Bible be "critically analyzed"?

Friday, November 28, 2008


It's official. Another transitional turtle fossil has been discovered (the second one this year!). PZ Myers gives us a photo and fills us in on what makes this fossil so special.

So it looks like creationists will have to look for other gaps scientific knowledge to exploit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Macroevolution IS Observable

Here is an excellent article over at the Panda's Thumb about Endosymbiosis and MacroEvolution.

This just adds to my growing list of observed evolutionary events.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More on the origin of sex

Here is something a wrote for my website a while back:

One of the biggest questions about evolution today is, "How did sex evolve?" The first place we should start is the definition of sex: exchanging genetic material with other members of a species. Bacteria have a way of exchanging genetic material; although it is more akin to the copy and paste functions of a computer than it is to sex. The next step would be for a population to evolve which went through cycles of giving and recieving genetic material. This population would be akin to the species of frogs that can spontaneously change sex from male to female. The final step would be for individuals to be born of only a single sex (Males that stay as males and females that stay as females). Richard Dawkins describes roughly the same scenario in "The Ancestor's Tale".

Guess what? Now this picture of the evolution of sex is being partly confirmed. A newspiece on Livescience says:

We all came from hermaphrodites, organisms with both male and female reproductive organs. And though the origin traces back more than 100 million years, biologists have scratched their heads over how and why the separate male and female sexes evolved.

Now, research on wild strawberry plants is providing evidence for such a transition and the emergence of sex, at least in plants. And the results, which are detailed in the December issue of the journal Heredity, likely apply to animals like us, the researchers say.

The study showed that two genes located at different spots on a chromosome can cast strawberry offspring as a single sex, a hermaphrodite or a neuter (neither male nor female, and essentially sterile). The researchers suspect the two genes could be responsible for one of the earliest stages of the transition from asexual to sexual beings.

"All of the animals and plants that are bi-sexual, or have two sexes, are theorized to have evolved according to a particular set of steps," said researcher Kim Lewers, a plant geneticist at the USDA's Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Lab in Maryland. "Until now, no example had been found of the very earliest steps. Therefore, those steps were undemonstrated to be true."

She added, "Finding this example of the very earliest stage allowed us to say the theory is probably right."

An Atheist Who Supports Intelligent Design?

Yep. His name is Bradley Monton, and he is a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. He's definitely a clear thinker (and an honest one at that) and so his arguments, in my opinion, are the most worthy of consideration of any other ID proponent I have yet come across. What follows is a commentary on some of his ideas.

From his paper on Judge Jones' decision:

1. He argues that science could, at least in principle, detect the existence of God. He imagines that scientists discover a pulsar which communicates with them in morse code, and answers questions which they had only thought to themselves, and provides the human race with information that only God (or a super advanced alien race) would have known.

My response: I am in full agreement. We could discover scientific evidence for God. But, as far as I have seen, the evidence for God which philosophers and IDers have presented is just not adequate for the claim being made.

2. He argues that the debate shouldn't center around whether ID is science, but only whether it is true.

My response: This is a fair point, but I would respond that

1) ID has no place in science class because it has not passed the scientific rigor that other ideas, such as Cell Theory, Atomic Theory, etc. have. In every case I can think of, an idea has won over a signifigant percentage of experts before it hits the classroom. Why should the standard be lowered for ID? If it is true, why does it not win over more adherents in the realm of biology? Monton brings up the so called "fine tuning" of the physical constants of the universe and how this is something being discussed by scientists. In this case I would agree that ID should be discussed since a good many scientists seriously consider this to be, at very minimum, a plausible answer (if not the best answer). On the other hand, I am not sure when the discussion of something like this would ever come up in a high school class.

2) Since Evolution concerns the history of life, it follows that what we can infer about its history should be from processes which we can observe (or prove possible) in the present day. If we start calling on the unobserved (namely aliens and/or God) then we stop doing science: We would have reached a point where anything goes. Note that this assumption is taken so that one can find out what is true, it is not an assumption that would hinder discover of truth, as methodological naturalism does. Intelligent Design could be perfectly compatible with this principle, but it simply needs to do demonstrate one or more of the following:
a. Give an observed example of aliens/God/Etc. designing something in the present day.
b. Give some examples of things which could never, even in principle, be explained by Evolution but which are expected (perhaps exclusively) from ID. Irreducible complexity won't work here: We know that evolution can produce IC. Neither will 'Complex Specified Information': We know that evolution can produce this too.

Finally, I disagree with Monton's thought that ID actually has some good supporting arguments. A page about his new book lists four arguments for ID which he finds "somewhat plausible":

1. The fine tuning of the physical constants.
I'll admit that this is an argument I find to be the most persuasive of all the arguments for God and/or a designer which I have heard. However, it still rests on some shaky assumptions which I feel undermine it as a successful argument for God. I also think that, even if only one kind of life is possible, and even if there are no other life friendly combinations of the values of these physical constants, God (or some other type of designer) still falls short of having as much explanatory power as Lee Smolin's theory of 'Cosmological Natural Selection'.

2. The Universe had a beginning.

I have no problem with this being discussed in a classroom. Nor would I have a problem with students being introduced to different explanations for the origin of the universe: Some think that God started it all, others think our universe is a product of quantum processes, others believe that the beginning wasn't really THE beginning (as they believe in one of the cyclic models of the universe), etc. etc.

3. The improbability of life coming from non-life

I emailed Monton about this, and he agreed with me that we do not really know what the odds of life originating are. In this case, I think students should simply be given a brief overview of what scientists think about the origin of life and nothing more. Sure, the first life may have been the product of some type of design, but only a handful of scientists espouse this view, and, from what we actually do know about the origin of life, it appears just as one would expect it to if it happened naturally.

4. An argument that we are living in a computer simulation

No comment. lol.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I got mentioned on Pharyngula!! Whoo-hoo!!

BTW, If you are new to my blog, you may want to check out my website, Godriddance, especially my abiogenesis page and my irreducible complexity page. Or, even better, my article over at Infidels.Org called "Ten Falsehoods and Misconceptions peddled by Answers in Genesis".

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Uncommon Descent: Fascist Bastards

I was dropping by Uncommon Descent the other day, and left a comment on one of the posts:

Denyse O'Leary had written:
“From a philosophical perspective the possibility remains that a designer may have supplied an organism with more genetic information than may have been needed for life- what one may call an “all the options, all the bells and whistles” approach. Such a designer could have been interested in placing non-functional genes in the genome for a future role in his or her design. We all install software into our computers that may not be operational until some later date when we finally choose to use it.”

If you don't know, this idea of "front loading" is essentially like Michael Behe's suggestion that God created the first cell and loaded it with all the genes that every organism would ever use.

So I wrote:

This is not viable for two reasons:

1. If, for example, the genes for blood clotting were “installed” in some cell long ago before it had function, the genes would have mutated beyond repair by now.

2. We should expect to find genes that would never have had any use in a species past. For example, finding vestiges of blood clotting genes in plants.

So of course, since I presented a scientific test of ID 'theory' what do you think the Idists did? Distorted information and backed away. They know they won't ever discover something like blood clotting genes in plants. One of the posters on ID said that the Sea Urchin had been discovered with genes for eyes and the immune system. But as I pointed out, we have only discovered that the Urchin has genes "involved in" vision. Since we know that these genes had functions before they were involved in eyes, they have probably just evolved a new funtion in other animals (vision). So it turns out that this isn't evidence of Behe and Dembski's silly genetic fantasy. What happens to that comment? It gets deleted. No bad language. No rudeness. I just stated the facts. And I get deleted. That just tells me that these fascists can't handle the free debate they are so adamantly pushing.

Yesterday I also commented on another post. The post said:

"Behe, who happens to be a Catholic, is in no sense a philosopher; he is a biochemist, and the Darwin cult’s howls of outrage against Edge are the best evidence that he is on to something and that his work should be seriously considered at such a conference."

I responded: "Michael Behe is onto something? Oh please. Student Abby Smith called him on his bogus claim that 'nothing new' had evolved in HIV. (Note that Behe eventually admitted she was correct).

He argues that evolution is mostly destructive, but he never discusses compensatory mutations (mutations which recover old functions which are lost due to, for instance, the evolution of antibiotic resistance).

And Nick Matzke completely destroyed his thesis that two protein protein binding sites cannot evolve simultaneously."

And what did I get from that simple post? It was deleted. I guess we can now see how honest and willing to debate UD really is.

P.S. A commenter left me a link to an excellent blog post which shows just how absurd "frontloading" is, making the very same points that I do.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Master Debunking by a Paleontologist

Can be found on the Afarensis blog. Read it. See creationists getting ripped a new one (again).

Friday, November 21, 2008

My brand new article

It's called 10 Falsehoods and Misconceptions Peddled by Answers in Genesis. It was published on the secular web. Read it here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Updates to GodRiddance.Com

I have written a lengthy article on Presuppositionalist Apologetics and the "Transcendental Argument".

I have revised my page on the "Hitler and Stalin" argument against atheism.

I have also expanded and revised my page on the origin of life ('abiogenesis'). Here are some of the new things on that page:

Addendum B: A Summary of the Evolution of the Genetic Code

Components of the Genetic Code:
DNA, mRNA, tRNA, Ribosome.

DNA is the "storage medium" which holds all the information for making a living creature. Messenger RNA, or mRNA, "reads" and copies the information of DNA. Transfer RNA molecules, or tRNA, brings specific amino acids to the mRNA chain. Ribosomes are in charge of matching tRNAs with the mRNA code.The amino acids form proteins which make up all aspects of living things, from skin to internal organs and muscles.

So, as you can see from my simplified explanation of the genetic code, it is fairly complex and may seem (at first) to be impossible to explain by natural means. Yet it is not. Consider this: Scientist have discovered RNA which can act as both mRNA and tRNA (1). This in and of itself is a drastic simplification of the genetic code. But we can go even further: we can postulate that all of the components of the genetic code originally came from chains of RNA called Ribozymes. We now know that the Ribosome is a Ribozyme (2). Scientists have even successfully derived DNA from an RNA ribozyme through a process designed to simulate evolution (3). Essentially, all of the genetic code seems to be derived from chains of RNA.

Components of the Genetic Code and where they came from:

DNA - Ribozyme

mRNA, tRNA - Common ancestor ribozyme which performed both functions.

Ribosome - Ribozyme

1. Di Giulio M., The early phases of genetic code origin: conjectures on the evolution of coded catalysis. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2003 Oct;33(4-5):479-89. (page 7)

2. Cech, T., Structural Biology: The Ribosome is a Ribozyme. Science 2000 Aug 11;289(5481):878-9.


Addendum C: Creationist Arguments about the Origin of Life

I highly recommend all three of these essays which dismantle creationist arguments against abiogenesis quite thoroughly:

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations by Ian Musgrave

Are the Odds Against the Origin of Life Too Great to Accept? By Richard Carrier

Dismantling Jonathan Wells' arguments against the Origin of Life

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Transitional Human Fossils

Recently, some brand new "missing link" skulls were discovered, as well as the pelvis of a homo erectus. Via Science Daily:

"This is the most complete female Homo erectus pelvis ever found from this time period," said Indiana University Bloomington paleoanthropologist Sileshi Semaw. "This discovery gives us more accurate information about the Homo erectus female pelvic inlet and therefore the size of their newborns."
A reconstruction of the 1.2 million-year-old pelvis discovered in 2001 in the Gona Study Area at Afar, Ethiopia, that has led researchers to speculate early man was better equipped than first thought to produce larger-brained babies. The actual fossils remain in Ethiopia.
The discovery will be published in Science this week (Nov. 14) by Semaw, leader of the Gona Project in Ethiopia, where the fossil pelvis was discovered with a group of six other scientists that includes IU Department of Geosciences graduate student Melanie Everett.
Reconstructing pelvis bone fragments from the 1.2 million-year-old adult female, Semaw and his co-workers determined the early ancestor's birth canal was more than 30 percent larger than earlier estimates based on a 1.5-million-year-old juvenile male pelvis found in Kenya. The new female fragments were discovered in the Gona Study Area in Afar, Ethiopia, in 2001 and excavation was completed in 2003.
Scientists also were intrigued by other unique attributes of the specimen, such as its shorter stature and broader body shape more likely seen in hominids adapted to temperate climates, rather than the tall and narrow body believed to have been efficient for endurance running.
Early humans became taller and narrower over time, scientists believe, partly due to long distance running and to help them maintain a constant body temperature. One consequence, however, is that a narrower pelvis would have been less accommodating to producing larger-brained offspring.
But rather than a tall, narrow hominid with the expected slight pelvic region, Semaw and the Gona researchers found evidence of a hominid ready to produce offspring with a much larger brain size.
"The female Homo erectus pelvic anatomy is basically unknown," Semaw said. "And as far as the fossil pelvis of ancestral hominids goes, all we've had is Lucy (dated at 3.2 million years and also found in Ethiopia), and she is very much farther back in time from modern humans."
Scientists studying early man predominantly find fragments of craniums and dental remains, while fossil bones from the neck down are rarely discovered. Even more difficult to verify are Homo erectus fossil bones that can be identified as those belonging to a female.
Scientists had thought early adult Homo erectus females, because of the assumed small birth canal, would produce offspring with only a limited neonatal brain size. These young would have then experienced rapid brain growth while still developmentally immature, leading researchers to envision a scenario of maternal involvement and child-rearing on par with that of modern humans. But those theories had been based upon extrapolations from the existing male skeleton from Kenya.
"This find will give us far more accurate information," Semaw said. Semaw is also a research scientist at the Stone Age Institute, a research center near Bloomington dedicated to the study of early human evolution and culture. It is affiliated with Indiana University's CRAFT, the Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology.
Gona has turned out to be a productive dig site for Semaw. In 1997 Semaw and colleagues reported the oldest known stone tools used by ancestral humans. Then in 2004 he coauthored a paper summarizing Gona's geological properties and the site's cornucopia of hominid fossils spanning several million years. At the time, Science gave the article an "Editor's Choice" recognition. In 2005 he and colleagues published an article in Nature announcing the discovery of Ardipithecus ramidus, one of the earliest ancestral hominids, dating between 4.3 and 4.5 million years ago.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Discovery Institute caught with its pants down

"" has a very interesting interview with Paleontologist Catherine Boisvert. Here is just one of the interesting questions she was asked:

AFM: The creationist Discovery Institute has pounced on some of the statements in your paper regarding sample quality as evidence that scientists are trying to backpedal on previous hypotheses regarding digit development and evolution. Can you clarify your statements regarding sample quality of Tiktaalik and Panderichthys?

CB: As you know, the “Discovery” Institute tactic is not to go to the primary literature in order to understand it but rather to use quotations from secondary, even tertiary sources, reorganise or use them out of context opportunistically to their own convenience. In this case, they used an article where the journalists unfortunately misunderstood me. Tiktaalik’s material is in fact exquisite, it is very well preserved, basically uncrushed and can be prepared out to be examined in three dimensions. I never said the quality was poor. I have simply explained that the morphology of the fin of Panderichthys is more tetrapod-like than that of Tiktaalik, which has nothing to do with the quality of the material.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sense and Goodness without God

I have written a review of "Sense and Goodness without God" by Richard Carrier. It is brief, but don't let that fool you: It is a book that every atheist should read, as it presents everything one should know about the naturalistic worldview and more.

To get a taste of the good sense in this book, please watch this video (It is the first in a series).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Updates to my site/ A word on my other writings

Updates to my site:

A link to Ex-Apologist's list of refutations to theistic arguments.

A Refutation of the Argument from the 'inner witness' of the Holy Spirit.

Signifigant Revisions to My page on Jesus.

I am planning on authoring two new articles: One on why creationists believe the nonsense they do (and why they have nothing to fear from Evolution), and another about some common lies/misconceptions peddled by Answers in Genesis. There is a possibility that both of these will appear on I am also currently reading Richard Carrier's book 'Sense and Goodness without God' and will write a review of it within the next three weeks or so.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dawkins a Deist?

I'm providing a commentary for this article found via the Spectator:

Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:
A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

This is true. A serious case could be made for a deistic God. Although I did not say so in my Review of Antony Flew's book, There is a God, the deist position is far more reasonable than Christianity. It is still weak and practically unfalsifiable, but it is an improvement from the fairy man of the sky that the Christians worship.

In Oxford on Tuesday night, however, virtually the first thing he said was that a serious case could be made for believing that it could.

Anthony Flew, the celebrated philosopher and former high priest of atheism, spectacularly changed his mind and concluded -- as set out in his book There Is A God -- that life had indeed been created by a governing and purposeful intelligence, a change of mind that occurred because he followed where the scientific evidence led him. The conversion of Flew, whose book contains a cutting critique of Dawkins’s thinking, has been dismissed with unbridled scorn by Dawkins – who now says there is a serious case for the position that Flew now adopts!

That book was probably not written by Flew. Flew does not seem to be in a sound state of mind, and the new book does not read like his other writings. I might also point out that the book is filled with potshots at Dawkins, which are totally unnecessary to the points "Flew" makes in the book, and look as if someone with a grudge against Dawkins inserted them in there to try and discredit him to the reader.

I put to him that, since he is prepared to believe that the origin of all matter was an entirely spontaneous event, he therefore believes that something can be created out of nothing -- and that since such a belief runs counter to the very scientific principles of verifiable evidence which he tells us should govern all our thinking, this is itself precisely the kind of irrationality, or ‘magic’, which he scorns. In reply he said that, although he agreed this was a problematic position, he did indeed believe that the first particle arose spontaneously from nothing, because the alternative explanation – God -- was more incredible. Later, he amplified this by saying that physics was coming up with theories to show how matter could spontaneously be created from nothing. But as far as I can see – and as Anthony Flew elaborates – these theories cannot answer the crucial question of how the purpose-carrying codes which gave rise to self–reproduction in life-forms arose out of matter from which any sense of purpose was totally absent. So such a belief, whether adduced by physicists or anyone else, does not rest upon rational foundations.

I have elaborated on the something-from-nothing question here, and I have elaborated on the question of abiogenesis here.

The rest of the article is rubbish. The writer says that Dawkins thinks "Jesus probably did not exist" (which is a position he absolutely does not take in his book) and that Einstein was an atheist (Which Dawkins did not say, he was careful to distinguish between Look-at-the-stars-in-awe "Einsteinian" Religion and Jesus-is-magic-Lunatic-Whacko-Fairytale religion).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


If people came from monkeys, why are monkeys still around?

Human beings did not evolve from any currently living species; We simply share a common ancestor with other primates. To fully answer this question, allow me to make an analogy: Dogs were bred from wolves by humans (yet we still have wolves). The reason for this is that in the wild, wolves do not leave behind more offspring for having the characteristics that humans like (soft fur, a certain color, etc.). When humans first began raising wolves, they selected the individual wolves that had the characteristics they liked and allowed them to reproduce; While not allowing the wolves that had characteristics they did not like to reproduce. The environments of the ancestors of modern day dogs and modern day wolves determined how they ended up today. The same applies to chimps and humans: Our ancestors were in different environments and so we have evolved differently. Our early ancestors lived on the savannah with few trees which made it more advantageous to walk upright.

What evidence is there for Evolution?

To give two examples: Charles Darwin predicted that since we are anatomically most similar to the great apes of Africa, it was most likely that we evolved in Africa, and therefore intermediate fossils (between a small brained knuckle walking ape and homo sapiens) would be found in Africa. Sure enough, this prediction has been proven true and we have a beautiful series of intermediate fossils to illustrate it. Another evidence for the theory of evolution is the fact that human beings develop a hairy coat called the lanugo when they are in the womb, only to shed it before they are born. This suggests that our development was modified (sloppily) from a prior form (a hairier ape than Homo Sapiens). To learn more about the evidence for evolution, I recommend reading "The 29 Evidences for Macroevolution".

Isn't evolution just a theory?

From Scientific American:According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a scientific theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. So when scientists talk about the theory of evolution--or the atomic theory or the theory of relativity, for that matter--they are not expressing reservations about its truth. In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. The NAS defines a fact as "an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as 'true.'"

How did life begin?

No one knows with complete certainty. Scientists have managed to create "protocells" which can grow, absorb nutrients, and reproduce. In fact, these protocells form from things like lipid membranes and nucleic acids which form easily in origin of life experiments. However, this is more complicated than it may seem: There is no universally accepted definition of life. These protocells would be considered alive if one's definition of life is the ability to feed, grow, reproduce and evolve. However, some scientists feel that something must be able to respond to its environment before it is considered alive (An example of responding to the environment is when plants grow towards a source of light). For these cells to be able to respond to their environment they would have to have the "molecular machines" that modern day cells have. Since these machines are composed of proteins, and proteins are made by the modern day genetic code (RNA and DNA) we need to understand how the genetic code evolved (For a good review of the evolution of the genetic code, see this video). Unfortunately, no one has a complete explanation of this, but here are some things we do know which shed light on its origin:RNA ribozymes can put together short protein fragments called peptides.RNA can evolve into DNA.Research has shown that some ribozymes can act as both messenger and transfer RNA (Radically simplifying the evolution of the genetic code). References for these statements made may be found here (footnotes 9-11).

Can Mutations Increase the Information in the Genome?

Yes. I have written an article about this and Touchstone has written a blog post about this argument.

What about the seashells on the mountain/the mentions of dinosaurs in the bible/the trees going through several layers of strata?

Simply see the hyperlinks above for answers to these questions. If you have another question like this, it will most likely be answered by searching for some of the key terms and phrases here.


I am very pleased about the outcome of the debate. I picked a winner on my first time voting.

In other news, Ken Ham gets his hiney handed to him. AiG invited a Geologist to a "debate" after he criticized some of their claims in a local newspaper. Happy Jihad asks:

"Let's look at the claims that you have made and see if they warrant a serious geologist's attention:

You said that unicorns are real. You claim that the Beowulf story is evidence of human cohabitation with dinosaurs. You say that sometimes religious genocide is OK. You think that the government is training people to talk to aliens. You believe that evolution is a random process, a process of blind chance, which is just factually wrong. You target children because they can't defend themselves and trust you (talk about a cowardly act). You believe if a 2-year old understands it, it must be cutting edge science. You believe that observation and measurement cannot trump "common sense." You believe you do the type of science that you need "faith" to understand instead of, you know, "understanding" to understand. You believe...whatever the fuck this is. You employ the nanny-nanny boo-boo defense. Your ilk does not even try to publish outside of its little circle, and you set up a bogus journal to pretend that you were scholars, THEREBY AVOIDING THE DEBATE YOU CLAIM TO CRAVE. You stare at evolution, describe evolution, and then say, "It's not evolution.""

Amen, brother.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Infidel Guy

Hi Everyone,

I don't want to turn this blog into an atheist charity drive or anything, but not long after I made my post about Richard Carrier, I found another infidel in need of support: Reginald Finley, aka host of the Infidel Guy show. He has fallen on hard times now, and his show, which supports rationalism and freethought, is in danger of going offair. His shows are cheap, usually only a dollar or two each, and are well worth the money (they are highly entertaining and educational). I am going to leave a link to a page of his where you can download shows on creation and evolution.